If you can’t wait to drink in the sound of sweet birdsong this spring after a long winter in lockdown, an ancient tip has been revealed to make them sing – get them drunk!
A 317-year-old pocket book from 1704, unearthed by Hansons Auctioneers and Entitled The Experienced Fowler Or The Gentleman’s Recreation, offers pages of tips and advice to make the most of outdoor life. But some of the ideas may shock nature experts today.
For example, to make birds sing in autumn and winter, the book advises, ‘let them be well purged with beer by mingling the juice with water and hang fresh beer leaves in their cages’.
But the birds get off lightly compared to some of the options dished out by author ‘JS’ 300 years to keep vermin, insects and other wild animals in check.
Caterpillars faced a fiery death: ‘To destroy caterpillars, ‘make little fires in the ground of wet hay and straw, sprinkle on brimstone pitch and it will kill them’.
And flies stood no chance though their demise was more subtle. ‘Take hellebore, a herb and place in new milk and sprinkle in the room and the flies will either avoid the place or dye away’.
Mice and rats were clearly seen as a major pest as the book offers plenty of advice to deal with them. ‘Boil wild cucumber in a pint of water, mix oat flower and make a paste, when rats or mice eat, it will destroy them’.
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The book provides a fascinating insight into rural life from three centuries ago. We came across it during a house clearance in Staffordshire and it really made me smile because some of the ideas seem so outrageous today. Who would have thought there was any need to make birds sing by giving them beer. I doubt any of these ideas will feature on TV’s Springwatch anytime soon!
“I also found it interesting as, with life on hold due to the pandemic, the great British public have been exploring the natural beauty on their doorstep like never before. Centuries ago, enjoying the great outdoors was one of the few recreations anyone had. There were no cars, planes, trains or modern tech to keep people occupied. Taking a stroll into the countryside was the main leisure pursuit for all. Our ‘new normal’ was their normality.”
The book is due to be sold in an upcoming Hansons Library Auction with an estimate of £600-£800.